I came across a very touching song about WW 1 sung by Slim Dusty of Australia. The song & the pictures of the video form a compelling story of a returning WW 1 soldier arriving home after losing his legs in the Gallipoli Campaign. He expresses strongly his relief at not finding anyone waiting at the dock to welcome him home. It’s way to early in his rehabilitation to be confronted by the shock he imagines will appear on the faces of his loved ones when they see him for the first time without his legs. He needs more time to accept their sympathy; that is, “to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.” He remains for a time unaware that he needs more time to adjust to his loss as well, “to grieve, to mourn, to pity.”
He’s not the same man physically & mentally who left Australia in 1915. He has seen things no man can prepare himself to accept because they are outside the window of all normal experiences until they happen. Automatic fire from the machine gun and steel fragments hurdling out of the high explosive shells can damage and mutilate the human body beyond the normal imagination of anyone. Seeing the suddenness of death at one hand, and the lingering agony of death on the other hand ignites fear in the bravest of soldiers. Then, there are the the cries, moans, pleas, gasps, & the death stare that stamps a permanent picture deep inside the soldier’s neural pathways. The combat soldier is never the same when he returns home from the front.
Like many of the battles during the trench warfare of WW 1, the Aussies went over the top & faced certain slaughter as they charged into a hail of lead and shrapnel. Historical accounts stated that the Turkish front was a failure from beginning to end. The campaign proved to be ill-advised, poorly planed & poorly executed. Yet the soldiers went over the top, an old tactic of former wars made obsolete & no longer reasonable against the new technology of war–the machine gun & the improved artillery fire. They went overthe top nevertheless into no-man’s land, and as the song says, Johnny Turkey blew us to hell, “nearly all the way back to Australia.”
There is a timeless bond that ties all soldiers together who advance while hearing the crack of the bullet over their heads. There is a timeless bond for all soldiers who wait for the 122 mm rocket, or artillery shell, to land, all the while hoping that their name isn’t written thereon. There is a timeless bond for all soldiers who face the smoke, smells, & chaos that envelops them during the heat of the battle. This bond unites them for eternity in a fraternal order that is sealed by blood and forged in courage. Imposters will be found out & punished; if not in this world, certainly in the next.
I know many of my Vietnam brothers in arms feel cheated by not receiving the respect that we deserve & earned by our blood, guts, & flesh left upon the battlefields of Vietnam. We feel that our sacrifice has been maligned by the mischaracterization of: 1) who fought the war, 2) our performance during the war, & 3) our readjustment to civilian life after the war. We appreciate our Vietnam brothers who are attempting to set the record straight about who we really are, and to repair our legacy as brave & honorable American soldiers who did our duty and came back home to contribute to the American society that we love.
No doubt there are some Americans, not all, but too many who, during & after the war, contributed immensely to a false impression of the returning Vietnam Veteran as different than all other American soldiers of previous wars. While we bled & died 10,000 miles away, the political left used the Vietnam soldiers as pawns to advance their political agenda. Their propaganda machine worked overtime painting the sons and daughters of the Greatest Generation in the most despicable light possible. I personally witnessed the bravery & sacrifice made by our fighting men in Vietnam & respect their bravery & fighting ability. As for me, I will never forget the treachery displayed by the political left during the Vietnam era! My loving wife has asked me to forget about it for my own good, but I will not forsake the truth or my Brothers in Arms.
WW 1 failed to be the war to end all wars. In a short 21-years WW II began. When those brave WW1 diggers went over the top, they were “butchered like lambs at the slaughter,” so the song goes.
My whole point is that the words of this WW I song rings true & reminds me of my feelings & experiences in a lot of ways. We’re not along in our despair, for in all ages men in combat have experiences similar to ours, though not exactly the same. I think parts of this song fits the Vietnam Vet well. Here is the song, & I hope you enjoy it. Click on the hyperlink. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGlpxviu8PY. Wayfaring Stranger: garland dale